3 Days in Paris: Best Things to Do

“Paris is always a good idea.”


Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild in “Sabrina”

It’s true.

Scene along Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris, France
Scene along Boulevard Saint-Germain

Our favorite things to do in Paris on a revisit

Seeing Paris for the first time is a dream come true for many travelers, particularly those, like me, who have been inspired by a lifetime of enticements from movies, books and travelogues. But the excitement doesn’t diminish with follow up trips to the City of Lights. We can now count four visits, and I’m hoping to go again and again. Visiting Paris is, indeed, always a good idea.

During our latest trip, we revisited favorite places and added new experiences. The places and activities mentioned in this post are all reasonable for a 3-day stay, but you’ll have to adjust based on how much time you want to spend in each, of course. I also mention activities from our previous visits that you can add to your itinerary or you can substitute for any of our most recent suggestions.

Long walks in the gardens

Jardin des Tuileries

Jardin des Tuileries in the late afternoon, Paris, France
Jardin des Tuileries

The Tuileries Gardens, between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, is a great romantic place for a stroll day or night. It’s also a great place for people watching. We were there in early October on a warm, sunny day. There were many flowers abloom and the trees were just starting to turn.

Luxembourg Gardens

Saturday in the park: Luxembourg Gardens, a Parisian urban oasis
Saturday in the park: Luxembourg Gardens

In my high school French book there was a photo of Luxembourg Gardens in the fall that sparked a lifelong desire to see Paris in that season. Up until this trip, we’d only been there in winter. Paris is wonderful in any season, but this was the trip that fulfilled my dream. We enjoyed a drink outside (it was quite busy and service was not good, but I didn’t care) and then walked through the gardens admiring the beauty and watching people enjoying this gorgeous autumn day. Along with the numerous families gathered to enjoy the weekend, there was romance in the air with couples walking hand-in-hand.

Art appreciation

Rodin Museum

"The Thinker" by Rodin at the Rodin Museum in Paris, France
“The Thinker” by Rodin

I’ve long been fascinated by the sculptures of Auguste Rodin and so a visit to the Rodin Museum has been on our Paris to-do list for a while. Located in the Hôtel Biron where Rodin lived and worked with other notables of his time (including his student and lover Camille Claudel) the museum provides an excellent opportunity to view and ponder this great artist’s works.

Atelier des Lumières  

Digital exhibition of Klimt/Hunterwasser at Ateliers des Lumieres, Paris, France
Klimt/Hunterwasser exhibit at Ateliers des Lumières

For a very different art appreciation experience, visit Atelier des Lumières for amazing digital exhibitions — there are no physical art pieces hanging on a wall. Rather, images of art are projected onto the walls and floor all over the gallery creating a wonderfully immersive interactive experience. Visitors become part of the art (see photo above) while gazing around at the changing images as music accentuates the displays. This is a relatively new venue and contrasts with other more traditional art galleries and museums in Paris.

Ticket tip: To avoid waiting in line, book your tickets online via the website.

Canal St. Martin

Locals sitting along the banks of the Canal St. Martin in Paris, France
Afternoon on Canal St. Martin

Hanging out along the 4.5km Canal Saint Martin gives you a look at a different, laid back side of Paris. This was our first time by the canal and talking a walk here was perfect for a beautiful fall day. Locals like to come here for lunch and relax along the banks. You may have heard of Hôtel du Nord or the 1938 French film of that name. It’s located along the canal and may be worth a peek inside.

Savor café life

Take time to soak up the café culture in Paris. Sit outside to sip a glass of wine or espresso while watching the passersby. There are unlimited choices everywhere in Paris. We usually look at recommendations near where we are going or while walking when we feel like taking a break, stop at one that looks appealing. It always seems the ideal activity for a Paris visit.

Le Saint Germain in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, France
Le Saint-Germain in the 7th arrondissement

Café tips: It was great to meet up with my friend, Pola Henderson of
Jetting Around, at one of her favorite places for coffee — La Fontaine de Belleville at 31-33 Rue Juliette Dodu in the 10th arrondissement. Mr. TWS and I also enjoyed Le Saint-Germain at 62 Rue du Bac (near our hotel) for coffee and croissants each morning.

With Pola Henderson of Jetting Around at La Fontaine de Belleville in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, France
With Pola Henderson at La Fontaine de Belleville

Where we stayed

Hôtel Duc de Saint-Simon at 14 Rue de Saint-Simon — We liked staying in this quiet, older style Parisian hotel in the affluent 7th arrondissement. It was convenient to many of our activities and the Metro stations on Rue du Bac and Boulevard Saint-Germain. A special aspect was the character of Saint-Germain-des-Près, a district that I would love to live in.

Favorite recent dining spots

Café Varenne — 36 Rue de Varenne (dinner in the 7th arrondissement)

Le Bistrot de Paris — 33 rue de Lille (dinner in the 7th arrondissement)

L’Affable — 10 Rue de Saint-Simon (dinner in the 7th arrondissement)

Chez Prune — 36 Rue Beaurepair (lunch in the 10th arrondissement)

Top recommended sites from previous trips

There are certainly many more famous and lesser-known attractions that you’ll want to include on your trip as a first-timer or on follow up visits. Here’s a short list of our favorite recommendations from previous trips, some of which you can read more about in other articles on our site.

Père Lachaise Cemetery

Père Lachaise is the largest cemetery in Paris. It is fascinating to walk along the paths leading to graves of many famous people including Jim Morrison (The Doors), Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Honore de Balzac, Gioacchino Rossini, Marcel Proust, Marcel Marceau, Frédéric Chopin, Abelard and Heloise, and Georges Bizet. The locations of the graves are indicated on a map at the cemetery entrance.

Shop with Parisians at the markets

There are many street markets in Paris to indulge your senses. Fresh seafood, produce, flowers, and other regional products are available on weekends (and various days during the week). Our favorites so far are
Marché Maubert at historic Place Maubert in the Latin Quarter and Marché Charonne in the 11th arrondissement at Boulevard de Charonne and Rue Alexandre Dumas.

Musee d’Orsay


We thought the Musee d’Orsay building was fascinating. It had the feeling of a cross between a beautiful European train station and a modern art museum — and indeed, it was originally built as a railway station, a very grand one, before its transformation.


Traveling with Sweeney, Sweeney in Paris: Her Favorite Things

Notre Dame Cathedral

Although too late to be able to climb to the observation level, we entered the cathedral as Mass was in progress at the main altar, enjoying the choir while being taken in by the architecture.


Traveling with Sweeney, Rue with a View

The Louvre

Art enthusiasts everywhere want to (and should) visit the Louvre — at least once. Be prepared to wait in line and be part of a crowd trying to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, but you might just get lucky as we did. On a cold winter’s day we had a relatively short wait in line for tickets and were actually at the front of a group behind the rope barrier protecting the Mona Lisa.

Galeries Lafayette

We’d often heard about the design and architecture of the famous Parisian department store, Galeries Lafayette, but we only made our first visit in December. The holiday decorations were mesmerizing, particularly the large, gorgeously-decorated, inverted Christmas tree hanging from the ornate glass domed ceiling.


Traveling with Sweeney, Sweeney in Paris: Her Favorite Things

Montmartre

There are so many locations for movie buffs to identify and enjoy during a walk through Montmartre — Forget Paris, Sabrina, Everyone Says I Love You, Funny Face, Kiss of the Dragon, and more. But our walk also gave us a glimpse of other historic and interesting attractions of Montmartre.


Traveling with Sweeney, On Location in Montmartre

Arc de Triomphe

Standing as a powerful symbol of French military victories is the Arc de Triomphe at the Place Charles de Gaulle, also known as l’Etoile, the Star. It is the center of l’Etoile with 12 avenues that radiate from the Arc, a grand location recognized as a premier landmark of Paris and memorialized in countless paintings, postcards, photos and films.


Traveling with Sweeney, A Star for the Soldier

Champs-Élysées

Sure, the Champs-Élysées, the beautiful wide tree-lined boulevard between the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde, is usually crowded with tourists, but you’ll be glad you took a walk here. We’ve especially enjoyed it in December when the Christmas lights are dancing on the trees and the shops, restaurants, and hotels are decked out in holiday finery.

Other trip tips

Meet (and speak “un peu français”) with Parisians — Knowing a bit of French (even just basic phrases and pleasantries) and a willingness to just give it a try will give you more confidence interacting with the locals and they will appreciate the effort. Try a free online course like Duolingo to get started or to up your game. Don’t worry about perfect grammar, just using the right words, gestures, and tone will go a long way.

Get around on the Metro — Paris is perfect for walking, but to explore diverse districts further afield, riding the Paris Metro is easy and efficient. We only needed the Metro for one day, but used it several times, so bought day passes. Be prepared for tight quarters at rush hour as you would in any major city. Don’t be intimidated, but be polite to fellow passengers.

Relax and enjoy — We actually took a fairly relaxed pace on this trip and I recommend you do the same. It’s enough just to be in Paris and, of course, you know you’ll have to come back.

10 thoughts on “3 Days in Paris: Best Things to Do

  1. Pingback: 7-Day Normandy and Brittany Itinerary | Traveling with Sweeney

  2. Doreen Pendgracs

    Thx for the great post on Paris. I do think I owe the city another chance, for as much as I appreciated the beautiful architecture and fine food and chocolate, I didn’t find the local people to be friendly at all.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Paris is definitely worth a second chance! You might be pleasantly surprised. Sorry you may have met some not-so-nice people, I promise you that you’ll find those who couldn’t be nicer!

  3. Johanna Castro

    What a fantastic guide – we are going to Paris in May, so will definitely book mark this post. We went there in 2014, but were pickpocketed on the metro which left rather a bad taste. This time we shall be wiser. Have Pinned 🙂

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Sorry about that experience, but I guess it’s something that can happen in any major city. I’m so glad that you are making a return visit!

  4. Lori

    Very well done guide to great sites and places to eat or just have a coffee. Paris is on our must-go list but always seems so daunting. We’ll bookmark your article especially for the cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants (thanks for the addresses).

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